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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My husband didn't cry when our baby died. Why not?

    We lost Olivia at 4 weeks old. The strangest thing was that my husband didnt cry when it happened? It felt strange that he didnt cry, is he holding it inside? He seems very cold and unemotional about it which is making it difficult for me as i feel like he didnt care as much that this happened as strange as it may sound. What should i do?
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  • SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support) is a self-help support group comprised of parents who have experienced the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, … View Profile

    Many men feel more emotion than they think they should show.

    Men may try to block out these feelings by finding ways to stop themselves dwelling on sad thoughts, sometimes by working harder or doing more. But unfortunately, this may only postpone the grieving. Grief is a natural and healthy response to loss and is not managed well by being ignored, avoided or suppressed.
     
    Some fathers manage to suppress their grief until their partner/spouse is coping better. At this later stage it is more difficult to express feelings openly as fewer supports are available. Reactions can then be complex, confused and prolonged.
     
    These reactions may range from difficulties in concentrating, loss of interest in work, to over-involvement in work or excessive physical activity. Irritability can linger, sometimes erupting as anger when the slightest thing goes wrong
     
    When a baby dies a father is often expected to support and console his partner/spouse. Some fathers will try to suppress their own sadness in support of her. This will not help in the long run. In fact, sharing your sadness may be a form of support and consolation of her.

  • There is a concept in grief theory called ‘the feminisation of grief’, referring to a tendency to conceive of healthy grieving as taking the form of talking, sharing, showing emotions, and so on.  The point of the concept is to criticise the stereotype of ‘proper, healthy grieving’ and suggest also that men (and in fact people!) experience loss differently and grieve differently.  A person who shows no emotion might still be responding to their grief in a very valid way…one suited to them and their way of being.    

    It is important t avoid judgements such as suggesting to others that they don't care, as this can be hurtful and even undermine a person's healthy but different grieving process.  That can be hard when you yourself want and need support from him which is meaningful to you, which communicates with your grieving style. 

    Of course people do also react in ways that are unhealthy for them.  If a person is doing so - eg shutting down and avoiding the pain - this can be a protective/coping mechanism.  People often engage in such emotional mechanisms without realising they are doing it, as a way of grieving a bit at a time and not becoming overwhelmed, or as a way of delaying grief while they deal with practicalities or support others.  Of course people also moderate their grief by social standards, such as “men don't cry”.  The point is not to make them cry, but to support them in responding to the loss in a way that is helpful and meaningful for them.  I suggest speaking with a professional grief counsellor (face to face, or via a free telephone line) for more advice on how to understand, respond and communicate with your husband.      

  • 1

    Thanks

    Sheree Holland

    Psychologist

    AFFIRMATIVE PSYCHOLOGY -MIAMI, GOLD COAST, BULK BILLING* (conditions apply). Affirmative Psychology - is a "niche" private psychology practice established by Sheree Principal/Psychologist/Principal so that the … View Profile

    I am sorry for the loss of your baby. There is no blanket answer to this. We all experience grief and loss in a way that is unique to oneself. Some can emotionally express their grief and loss, others may try to ignore their emotions/feelings, and may feel numb and in shock. In addition, there are differences in cultures as well, and how emotions are dealt with and expressed publicly. Try and keep the lines of communication open through “sharing” your feelings and what you are experiencing. If this is strongly impacting upon your relationship I would recommend seeking professional Psychological help to process the loss (either as a couple, or individually). I would also recommend reading psycho-educational material in regard to the grief/loss process and identifying where you are at in the grief cycle. Finally, you may wish to gain support through a grief/loss support network which may assist in identifying how avoiding dealing with loss has negatively impacted life, and how others in a similar situation have coped.

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